The boss of Jet2 has warned that a no-deal Brexit would be “extremely damaging” for both the UK and Europe, as the airline braces for potential restrictions and cost increases.
Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said flying to Europe from the UK could be more expensive and heavily regulated for operators after Brexit.
“The worst thing that could happen is that we’re not able to fly to Europe,” he said. “I think the chance of that happening is extremely low.
“I think we’ll end up with something in the middle whereby we’re able to fly into Europe, but I think it might be more expensive and there might be more restrictions.”
Mr Heapy said Jet2, which is owned by London-listed Dart Group, would consider adding more flights to locations such as Turkey if it was not allowed into Europe.
The comments come as Theresa May’s Brexit “Plan B” struggles to gain traction among MPs, making a no-deal exit increasingly likely.
The airline, which has plans in place for a range of Brexit scenarios, is also banking on its balance sheet to help weather any disruption or a dip in consumer confidence.
“We have a very healthy bank balance and if it comes to a tough time where business perhaps is lower than normal, we have a lot of cash in the bank and will be able to continue operations for significantly longer than a number of our competitors.”
The CEO said Jet2 is confident of a positive resolution to Brexit negotiations as the EU has “a lot more to lose than we do” from a disruptive exit due to the high spend of British leisure travellers abroad.
More than 60% of Jet2 destinations are in Spain, providing what Mr Heapy called a “big boost” to the country’s economy.
His comments come as Jet2 marked a milestone with the delivery of the 100th aircraft in its fleet this week. The operator is currently the UK’s third-largest airline and second-largest tour operator.
Turbulence has hit the short-haul sector in recent months, with Flybe collapsing into administration while Ryanair last week issued a profit warning.
Despite the problems affecting the industry, Mr Heapy said Jet2 was in a stronger position than many of its peers.
“We don’t go for all-out growth,” he said “I think that’s very dangerous in a business where you just want growth for the sake of it.
“We are growing because customers are finding Jet and Jet2.com holidays and booking them and having a good time and rebooking them. The growth is a result of success in providing a quality product.”
He also ruled out the possibility of becoming a consolidator in the sector, saying the company will instead focus on organic growth.
“We see no need to buy companies because normally when they’re up for sale it means maybe there’s trouble ahead so why would we buy trouble?”